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Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk

This item is taken from PN Review 44, Volume 11 Number 6, July - August 1985.

Letters from Antony Easthope, Roger Poole, Terence Hawkes, Bill Freeman
A FOND FAREWELL

Sir: Claude Rawson's letter (PNR 43) works mainly through irony and personal attack rather than argument, so no reply to it is possible. This is where we came in (see my letter to PNR 40).
Didsbury, Manchester ANTONY EASTHOPE

Sir: Professor Rawson's letter to PNR 43 is a little too complacent in its assumptions. My original letter in PNR 42 brought up a question of principle, and a question of principle cannot be so urbanely wafted away. It is a little disingenuous of Professor Rawson to pretend that there is no "received opinion at the TLS" just because several disparate names occur in one issue. The TLS is justly famous for its catholic spread. But its editorial policy can on occasion be hostile to new thought, and this, I am afraid, is one of those occasions.

In my original letter to PNR 42, I listed the three things which my review basically said, so I will not repeat them here. My three points were aimed at making a case for fairness and openmindedness in reading Widdowson's volume. But hostility to New Accents as such can be seen in the editorial changes marked on the original review.

Professor Rawson suggested that the most 'space-effective' thing to do would be to print the original review as it stands, but however desirable this would be, in the common pursuit of true judgement, it would not be sufficiently informative without also reproducing the editorial emendations, which do give a surprisingly clear insight into what "received opinion at the TLS" actually is.

For instance, from my opening sentence: "Over the past five years, Methuen's New Accents series, edited by Terence Hawkes and his canny team at Cardiff, has emerged as the most intelligent and coherent contribution to literary studies that has been made"-the complimentary phrase "edited by Terence Hawkes and his canny team at Cardiff" has been deleted, and my comparative structure ("the most intelligent . . . that has been made") has been changed to the anodyne phrase "a most intelligent contribution", thus disallowing the comparative point I was trying to make.

In the middle of my first page I write: "The New Accents series is thus not only a helpful phenomenon, it also acts as a useful machine for taking the heat out of potentially ugly confrontations. All praise and thanks are due to the enterprise, for which we are not only intellectually richer but more friendly towards each other." With a single slash of the editorial biro, this sentence has been totally deleted. Professor Rawson would have a very hard job trying to contend, in the face of that deletion, that there is no "received opinion at the TLS"!

In the middle of a sentence at the foot of page one, the phrase "perhaps another good reason for saying that everyone should read it" has been deleted.

On page 3 I write: "Here I have to make a personal reservation, but my having to do so may also be helpful to others who, like myself, want the best of the Marxist insights without having to carry also the dead carapace in which Marx travelled." This attempt to act as an honest broker is also deleted.

But there are also some quite deliberate and willed misreadings which show that the Editor was irritated by what was being said about the present state of intellectual life in England. I write: "The contributors' anguished plea for at least some degree of conceptuality instead of utter intellectual lassitude is in every way to be encouraged and endorsed"-and against this the Editor has pencilled "encourage anguish?". By changing my adjective to a noun, and then suppressing the original noun, 'plea', the Editor chooses to indicate just how irritated he was at the suggestion that there was any "utter mental lassitude" about. But although this is a willed misreading, it also shows a great hostility to my contention, throughout the review, that the Widdowson volume has much of positive value to contribute to the present crisis in criticism.

Indeed, as I suggested in my original letter, I suspect that it is my endorsement of the Widdowson contributors' diagnosis about what is wrong with 'English' in England now, rather than my entertaining for a moment the efficacy of their proposed medicine, that caused my review to be rejected. For there is another irritated pencilled underlining and marginal question mark against my phrase "to provoke the Lotus-eating Academy to self-examination". It is this sort of implied indictment of the status quo in English studies which "received opinion at the TLS" will not tolerate.

My entire conclusion (13 lines) in which I say that "as a member of the English School I am fascinated by some of the achieved criticisms in Re-Reading English, and believe that this is certainly the way to go, or a way to go, out of what is experienced by many as a total chaos and a deadening impasse", has been cut. I was also saying in my conclusion that I had to distance myself from the explicit Marxist-Leninist bias of some of the writing in Widdowson's book, but this obviously genuine offer of impartiality was not enough to save the entire paragraph from being cut. The suggestion that Re-Reading English was "the way to go, or a way to go" was simply disallowed.

Yes, there is a "received opinion at the TLS" and it is very conservative, and very intolerant of implied criticism of the status quo and of existing hierarchies. Even more to the point, it reacts unfairly and discriminatingly when it finds it has to accept a review which examines impartially a work of criticism whose endorsing theoreticians are hostile to the status quo. I am only very disappointed to see that the TLS takes cover behind cowardly insinuations about a review being "irredeemably weakly argued and badly written" instead of honestly admitting to its own conservative prejudices and acknowledging its fears of conceptual innovation. After all, we are all Habermassians now! Except, of course, the TLS.
University of Nottingham ROGER POOLE

Sir: I have a clear interest in the debate surrounding Re-Reading English and so hesitate to intervene. However, the issues are obviously important and neither side should feel itself constrained. Claude Rawson's suggestion that Roger Poole's original review might now be published thus strikes me as eminently sensible. It would broaden the scope of the argument and perhaps make clear what some of the fuss is about.
University of Cardiff TERENCE HAWKES
General Editor,
New Accents

The General Editor writes: I have no objection to Roger Poole's piece being printed-but not in this journal.

VAT ON BOOKS

Sir: Is PN Review actually supporting the introduction of VAT on books and journals? That is what I surmised from your Editorial (PNR 43). If so, you can cancel my subscription. If not, please come out with an unequivocal statement and ask your readers to petition the Chancellor.
Pinner, Middlesex BILL FREEMAN

The General Editor writes: Petition Mr Lawson! The editorial in question looked at another tax, one already with us.

This item is taken from PN Review 44, Volume 11 Number 6, July - August 1985.



Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk
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